FORMER publican, Jim Manning had been missing for over 24 hours when his son discovered his blood saturated body in bushland in Sydney’s west in 1927.
Jim’s death at the age of 73 was a tragic end to the life of a pioneering publican, who, in 1880, established the Royal Cricketers Arms Hotel at Prospect.
James Manning was issued a publican’s license in July 1880 for the Royal Cricketer’s Arms Hotel – the same year the construction of the Prospect Reservoir got underway. His new pub joined the nearby Prospect Inn to service the thirsts and provide accommodation for those working on the construction of the reservoir, the travelling public, and the surrounding farming communities.
Jim and his wife, Agnes were married at Parramatta in 1875 before they moved into the Royal Cricketers’ Arms with their three-year-old son, Henry James, and one-year-old daughter, Florence. The couple were both 26 years of age.
The young family were soon hosting one of the busiest pubs in the district.
Jim also operated a race track and a cricket pitch on the property and it was a popular site for picnics. It’s likely that the name of the hotel came from Manning’s interest in cricket, he being an active member of the Prospect Cricket Team.
Various mortgages were taken out to expand the hotel during the 1880s, the boom period for the village of Prospect. In 1881 Manning again mortgaged the property, this time to the Bank of NSW. This correlates to the time when he and one of his wife’s family members commenced operating the Flushcombe Stores and Butchers next to the Royal Cricketers Arms on the corner of Flushcombe and Western Roads.
The store sold groceries, beef, boots, clothing and ironmongery. The exact location of the store appears on a 1884 subdivision plan as a structure behind the hotel. It’s also possible the hotel was extended by this time with the western wing that was clearly set up as a separate retail outlet connected with the hotel activity.
Manning took out other mortgages in 1882 and 1883 to expand the business, perhaps to build and stock the store at the rear and side of the hotel. Construction of the Prospect Reservoir was underway by this time (1879-1888) and there is little doubt that the construction of the hotel and expansion into the general store was related to the influx of people associated with that work.
By 1870 the stone quarry on Prospect Hill had also been opened to supply blue metal to Sydney and for local road building. The railway to Blacktown opened in 1860 and the hotel was on the corner of Flushcombe Road, the main access to the station. This would have placed Manning in an ideal position to capitalise on the workforce on the Reservoir as they moved to and from Blacktown.
The winding down of the Reservoir construction occurred at the same time that Manning was in financial trouble and it is possible that he overestimated the potential of the business. He also undertook the subdivision of the remainder of his land during this period, retaining a three acre block around the hotel and store. An 1884 auction led to blocks slowly selling from that time.
A third child, Ethel, was born at the pub in 1889, when the hotel was transferred to Hugh McCue, who mortgaged the property back to Manning. The family continued as hosts of the Royal Cricketers Arms until 40-year-old Jim was finally forced into bankruptcy in 1894.
The Mannings immediately leased the pub to Sarah Roche, who held the license of the pub until 1902.
Financially ruined, Jim gained work in the nearby Prospect Quarry. The family likely continued to call one of the buildings on the pub property home.
The licence of the Royal Cricketers Arms was held by a variety of people until 1911, when Jim watched his old pub fade from existence.
In 1908, Local Option Polling, a vote of residents to reduce or maintain the number of pubs in their electorate, determined the end of the Royal Cricketers Arms.
The Cumberland Argus reported on May 30 1908 that the Parramatta Licensing Court sat to determine what three hotels should close in the state electorate of Sherbrooke.
The court was weighing-up whether the Prospect Inn or the Royal Cricketers Arms should be one of the three hotels to close.
TOO MANY AT PROSPECT
With reference to the Royal Cricketers’ Arms, Prospect, Mr. Lamb appeared for the owners and the licensee. Sergeant Lucas said that the hotel was about 20 miles from Sydney and about six from Parramatta. The hotel was just outside the 20 mile radius from the city. He could not say that a number of people – cyclists and others – made use of the hotel. He did not know that there was much shooting in the vicinity. With reference to the Prospect Inn, Mr. H. A. Richardson appeared. That hotel, the Sergeant said, was about four miles from the nearest hotel. It was one and three-quarters of a mile from the Cricketers’ Arms. The Prospect Inn was the larger and the older (or the two hotels in the vicinity). There were very few houses near either hotel. The Prospect Inn was nearer to the cross-roads, leading to the Reservoir and to Blacktown, respectively. So far as traffic on the Western-road was concerned the Prospect Inn was equally useful with the other (with the exception of being outside the 20 mile radius)…
With reference to the Royal Cricketers’ Arms Hotel, Prospect the licensee, Thomas Joseph Tobin, was examined by Mr. Lamb. He deposed that his hotel was situated overlooking Prospect Dam, just outside the 20 mile post. He took possession in April last year. The photo of the hotel produced showed a small hotel. He had a photo also of the view looking over Prospect. He paid £32 per year rent. He had only a short length of lease. He paid no bonus when he went in. There was quail-shooting and pigeon-shooting round about. His hotel was the first hotel outside the 20 mile limit from the city on the road to St. Mary’s. People travelling, and cyclists, used his hotel most. He had a pad-dock (11 acres) and a good yard. There were two dams in the paddock. His hotel was close to the Reservoir; and people going there, and people travelling stock, used his hotel and his paddock occasionally. To Mr. Richardson: There was a road turning off to Blacktown near the other hotel — that would be the nearest way for people travelling from Parramatta to Blacktown. The Dam was about a mile from his hotel. The Prospect Inn was close to the turn-off to the Dam. The public were allowed to go on to the Dam reservoir near his hotel. Vehicular traffic went to the Dam by the turn-off near the Prospect Inn. W. H. Smith, mail contractor, gave evidence that the Royal Cricketers’ Arms was required in the interests of the travelling public in his opinion. Bungaribbee Estate was being out up. The country was suitable for farming, and fruit and vine culture. There were some large vineyards between St. Mary’s and the hotel. The Cricketers’ Arms Hotel was the more convenient of the two Prospect hotels, so far as houses, close by, went. Better accommodation was to be obtained at the Royal Cricketers’ Arms than at the other hotel.
CIVILITY— AND WHAT YOU ASK FOR.
To Mr. Richardson: The Bungaribbee Estate was closer to the Cricketers’ Arms Hotel than to the Blacktown Hotel. The Cricketers’ Arms gave better accommodation – “civility, and what you asked for.” He had not fallen out with the licensee of the Prospect Inn. He thought that there were more bedrooms for the public in tho Cricketers’ Arms than in the Prospect Inn. Edward J. Black, a general stock dealer, deposed that he lived in Parramatta. The Royal Cricketers’ Arms was a convenience to people travelling stock on the road. In some ways the hotel was the more convenient; in other ways, the other. Mr. Lamb: Honors are about divided there? Witness: Yes. The witness said that there was good paddock accommodation at the Cricketers’ Arms Hotel. There was a “good” deal of stock traffic along the road. To Mr. Richardson: Some of the stock sold at Blacktown came from the Windsor-side districts. There were accommodation paddocks along the road, but they were hard to get. There were paddocks; but he would not say “accommodation paddocks.” Mrs. Jane Smith gave evidence, as the licensee of the Prospect Inn. She (and her late husband) had had that license for 15 years. She paid £100 a year rent. She supplied beds and meals, and took, in that way, about £2 a week (apart from money for liquor). There were about 694 persons in Prospect. She had four public rooms in her hotel. She had one permanent boarder, and casual boarders. She supplied about 20 meals in the week. Drovers called there. She had accommodation paddocks, well watered, also yards. Pretty well every week she was asked to allow persons to put cattle in the yards. Her house was situated on the Western road, near the junction of the road to Blacktown. The road leading to the Reservoir was half-a-mile on the Penrith side of her house. That was the only available road from Sydney to the Reservoir. It was a mile and three-quarters from her place to the Cricketers Arms. Her house was the nearest hotel to the Quarries and to where men worked at the Dam. Between 56 and 60 men were at the Quarries; they used her hotel. She had a share of the business of the cyclists and the motorists. The principal portion of her business came from the local residents — more perhaps than half. To Mr. Lamb: She did not keep books. She bought her liquor from Mr. Clark, Royal Hotel, Parramatta. Albert F. Jacob, civil engineer, and resident engineer at Prospect, deposed that he knew the Prospect Inn. That hotel was a matter of public convenience. His Honor: Which of the two should stand? The witness: Owing to the location of the Prospect Inn, the eastern traffic — the heavier traffic — is better served by the Prospect Inn. Therefore, he thought that if one hotel had to go the Prospect Inn should stand. To Mr. Lamb: The principal road to Blacktown went off from the Western-road nearly opposite the Prospect Inn. L. C. Litton, contractor, and manager of the local Road Metal Company, deposed that he had been living out at Prospect for years. He thought that the Prospect Inn was the better position of the two hotels. To Mr. Lamb: The greater portion of the traffic on the Western-road went on along the road; a small portion went to Blacktown. The Flushcombe-road was a bad road, and the shire council had “had a bad time of it lately” about it, he believed. He understood that repairs to the road had been promised.
The Local Option Court ruled on June 9 1908 that three hotels in the electorate of Sherbrooke were to close within three years. They were: The Royal Cricketers’ Arms, Prospect, Cricketers’ Arms, Smithfield, and Commercial Hotel, St Mary’s.
Tom Tobin, who had been the licensee since 1907, hosted the pub until its closure in June 1911, when it was forced to close for business.
Jim and Agnes Manning – who were both now 57 years of age – were believed to have been living in one of the buildings on the property around this time. He undoubtedly watched in desperation as the pub he founded was forced to close for business.
In 1913, the former pub, on three acres of land, was sold to Edward Cooney. At the time the property was described as comprising of a two storey brick dwelling with iron roof, containing four rooms upstairs, and seven rooms and kitchen downstairs. Cooney’s daughters operated the old pub as a tearoom and local store for travellers on the Western Road. The building was extended at this time to include a rear verandah.
Meanwhile Jim Manning continued working in the Prospect Quarry until illness finally forced him to quit at the age of 72 in 1926. He was said to have fallen into deep depression after he was unable to find further employment, which would lead to his violent suicide.
In December 1927, Jim Manning visited his son, Henry James near Lidcombe, in Sydney’s west. Old Jim borrowed his son’s razor and disappeared into nearby bushland at Potts Hill. Unable to find his father, he reported his disappearance to the Lidcombe police.
Now frantic for the welfare of his father, Henry again searched the bushland around his home. He found his father’s bloody body about 100 yards from his cottage, with the head almost severed. The Sydney Sun reported on December 29 1927 that a portion of his clothes and the ground beneath his head were saturated with blood. It was a sad and violent end for the founder of the Royal Cricketers’ Arms.
His widow, Agnes lived another year after her husband, and she died of natural causes at the age of 74 at the former pub on December 19, 1928.
From 1937 until 1942, the property was resold many times before being used for farming by Ivan Posa until 1963. The Posa family probably used the hotel as their residence during this period.
In 1963, the property was sold again and used as a caretaker’s residence for the nearby drive-in-theatre. In 1989, the Department of Planning placed a Permanent Conservation Order on the property.
The former pub was abandoned and suffered much vandalism until 1992 when restoration work began on the building. The property was leased to James Kellie and a $300,000 internal restoration enabled the reopening of the historic building as a hotel in 1994.
The resurrection of the Royal Cricketers’ Arms continues Jim Manning’s original dream of providing hospitality for those travelling along the Reservoir Road at Prospect.
Licensees of the Royal Cricketers Arms, Prospect, 1880-1911
July 1880-1889: James Manning
1889-1890: William J. Banks
1890-1894: James Manning
1894-1902: Sarah Roche
1902- December 1902: John Wilson
1902- January 1903: Walter Farquhar Hirst
1903-1905: Alice Clarke
1905-1907: John Lamont
1907-1911: Thomas J. Tobin
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